For the short version of where the Cardinal and I have been and where we are headed, ignore the text and look at the maps.
For the long version, the more accurate version, read the text. 🙂
There is a ball of mud, rock and iron whirling in space, turning about a lopsided axis at something approaching 1,000 mph, at the equator. As this ball spins it is circling around a yellow star, a ball of nuclear fusion, and it is circling at a speed of some 67,000 mph. This yellow star, with the planet Earth circling it, is rotating within something we call the “Milky Way” (bloody stupid, juvenile name!) and is circling relative to that at 448,000mph. The Milky Way is also moving, relative to the “big bang” and relative to its neighbours. In fact, mildly interestingly, the Milky Way is on a collision course with its nearest neighbour, the Andromeda galaxy, and the two are closing on each other at roughly 252,000mph. Beyond that, space and time themselves are, we are led to believe, expanding wildly towards some sort of heat-entropy death, and then a possible collapse that may or may not shove us all through like some Universal hernia into another dimension where the same physics and spatial restrictions may or may not apply.
In the middle of all of this you and I cling to the surface of our planet, pour cups of coffee and panic when we can’t remember song lyrics from the nineteen-sixties or where we’ve left our spectacles. Occasionally we resort to an Aspirin.
Recently I have spotted a comment or two from folk wondering about the route that the Cardinal and I are following, where we’ve been, where we might be going to. So, I thought that I would try to explain. Most of our journey is on a spinning planet, circling a sun, rotating around a galaxy and rushing away from a Core Explosion all while accidentally being on a collision course with another galaxy at a quarter of a million miles an hour.
The Cardinal and I add to this spinning, swirling, headlong rushing a movement along England’s canals, at something on the order of 2.5mph, more or less, quite often less. Sometimes we also bob up and down a bit, depending on the whims of the wind and the occasional small wave.
My planned route is limited to a small patch of a tiny island in the North Atlantic ocean. Technically, this is called ‘Great Britain’. Great Britain is not a country, it is a collection of three countries, one called Wales, one called Scotland and the best one of all, called England. Sometimes people call Great Britain (and sometimes they even call England) the ‘United Kingdom’ or – which is ugh – the ‘U.K.’. The United Kingdom isn’t a country either, and it’s actually The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and it’s ruled by a Queen, not a King. Wales and Scotland and Northern Ireland hate England, and in tit-for-tat return we in England generate far and away the most income tax revenue, give them things like free medical prescriptions (while charging our own population for medical drugs), and we let them have parliaments of their own and have seats in the English parliament, although we’re not allowed into theirs. We are indeed, thus, quite horrid.
But I digress. A small island in the North Atlantic ocean. I have bunged a dirty-great red arrow pointing to it in the featured image above. The following two images sort of “zoom” in a bit to show you in more detail. All of my 2.5mph canal travels (but not the planetary, solar or galactic travels) take place at the moment within the red circle.
The blue and yellow and purple markings are the “Winter Stoppages” that I am moving to try to avoid. The blue lines are the canals and rivers. There are some 2,000 miles of navigable canals and rivers in Ingerlund at the moment, although that all hangs by the usual “austerity” thread.
I sort of notionally “began” at the top of that trapezoidal shape within the red arrows, and I am cruising anti-clockwise (this helps with the sea-sickness caused by the galactic motion). The route is something like 110 miles and ninety-six locks, and I am about a third of the way around so far.
I am hoping to cruise back to my (notional) start point before the end of the year, but if I get “stuck” by stoppages then I’ll just have to pick and choose and bob around between wherever, until everything re-opens. However the planet, solar system and galaxy move, I must try to ensure that I am, at all times, within reach of water/rubbish/gazunder services and shops.
Given these insane velocities and all of this whirling and swirling about, how, I hear you cry, do you slow a narrowboat down to a (relative) “stop” from 2.5mph? Well, I ease off the throttle as far ahead as can be, I give two or three blips of reverse thrust as I approach my target and, if I’ve done that correctly, I sort of drift up to the towpath…
Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I make a right, royal mess of it.
Once stopped, how do I make sure that everything – planet, sun, galaxy &etc – don’t just lose interest and drift apart? Well…
Planet Earth only “weighs” about 5,972,000,000,000,000,000,000 tons, and when I want to take a shower or go to sleep I hang the planet on two ropes, one fore, one aft, and that usually keeps it in place, relative to my boat.
I have no idea what arrangements the planet has made with the sun to remain in place, nor the sun and solar system with the galaxy. Some sort of damnable “the physics” prevails, I think. The gravity of the matter escapes me.
It’s all very complicated, and this is why, at the end of a day doing locks or tunnels or even just cruising a few miles, I am – to put it mildly – often “cream crackered”. There’s a lot to think about.
It is also why, when you spot simplistic signs such as this one at the side of the canal, one ought really to laugh slightly hysterically, develop a twitch in one eye and grip the acceleratrix and steering-stick just that little bit tighter. Nowhere on the canals actually lies in a straight line direction.
Hopefully that’s cleared up where I’ve been, where I am cruising to and why. I am heading south on the Shropshire Union, intend to swerve to my left, your right, onto the Staffordshire and Worcestershire, and then scoot, if scoot I may, up the Trent and Mersey canal back to where I began, by which time I hope they’ll have fixed the Middlewich breach and I can complete the loop.
The red circle area lies vaguely between Liverpool, Manchester and Birmingham – none of which I intend to actually touch in this cruise!
Chin-chin. Ian H.